Woooo-ooooah, we're half way there...
Since departing Beetaloo Creek Campsite on Day 22, the trail had zigzagged through flat green terrain. While there were several diverse patches, including lofty ascents to New Campbell Hill on Day 24 and Whistling Trig Tank on Day 27, the landscape remained regimentally cultivated. I missed the unbridled wild of the Flinders Ranges. However, after a week of grassy paddocks and easily-startled sheep, my path would divert back into the wild on Day 30.
Heysen Trail Diary – Day 30
I awoke to the sound of rattling windows. The wind, that I had somehow avoided while scaling Mount Bryan on Day 29, was back and making up for lost time. The 16-kilometre walk through the blustery, calcrete-rich Caroona Creek Conservation Park would be inhospitable, but I’d appreciate every second of the variety.
Caroona Creek Conservation Park contains a representative sample of the transitional zones between the rounded hills of the Mid North and the beginning of the rocky gorge country of the Flinders Ranges.
I spent the early part of the morning hiding in Old Mt Bryan East School, waiting for the gale to subside—it didn’t. If anything, the gusts strengthened as I left the beautifully restored building and rejoined the Heysen Trail.
Within the blink of an eye, the scenery transformed. I had again crossed Goyder’s Line. However, unlike my last encounter with the phenomenon on Day 14, my new surroundings were dyed brown. Even the cloud-spattered sky appeared to be tinted magenta as if it were similarly weathered by the harsh conditions. The animals changed too; sheep became goats, magpies became ravens, and kangaroos became… well, burlier kangaroos.
The trail soon cut through the historic Tourilie Gorge. Before the railway was introduced to the area, settlers utilised this chasm to transport their produce east to expecting steam paddlers on the distant Murray River. I was reliably informed by my genealogy-obsessed father that one of my ancestors ‘bullocked’ this track for many years. I felt pensive walking in his footsteps, especially as much of the route’s unrefined 19th-century foundations were still intact.
It’s likely I also encountered many of the severe conditions he would have endured on his voyages. The blustery winds, swirling dust storms and sweat-dripping humidity were uncompromising. I took a weather-enforced break in the only shelter for miles, Tourilie Gorge Hut, and hoped the brutal blasts would stop. But, again, just like the morning’s delay, there was little change.
It appeared luck was not on my side as a spitting rain whipped through the park shortly after I relinquished the refuge. I shivered abruptly before my body gradually warmed in the, now, overcast conditions. Rainfall north of Goyder’s Line is incredibly infrequent. I wasn’t sure if I should feel aggrieved or privileged to be stuck in the middle of such a unique event.
By the time I arrived at the Caroona Creek Campsite, I’d had enough of ‘the change’ that I had so desired. I threw my bag under the tri-walled shelter and hobbled over to use the campsite outhouse. I sat exhausted with my eyes downcast for some time before I re-emerged. Much to my amazement, everything had transformed, yet again.
The clouds had momentarily parted and the park’s abundant saltbush illuminated in a regal blend of gold and purple. My painfully slow amble to use the facilities had advanced into a speedy dash to unpack my camera equipment and capture this staggering spectacle.
The brilliant sky-show lasted 20 minutes before the clouds regrouped and the sun disappeared. Nevertheless, this short exhibition was enough to reinvigorate my energy levels and kickstart the rest of my journey through Caroona Creek Conservation Park on Day 31.
All the details.
Trail distance covered
The region has hot dry summers with cool to cold nights and cool, wet winters. Autumn and spring can be warm and mild with occasional periods of rain or showers.
Unlike the weather, the stretch into Caroona Creek Conservation Park was a relief. After two high-altitude days trekking over lofty ranges, the relatively flat change of scenery came at just the right time.